GUIDONIA, Italy (AP)Just a mention of that unbeatable ”Moliwood” team with Francesco Molinari still brings out the emotions in Tommy Fleetwood.
The pairing, which won all four of their matches to help Europe claim the 2018 Ryder Cup, were back playing together in the first round of the Italian Open on Thursday.
The reunion may be short lived, though, because Molinari has struggled with back problems over the last year and isn’t expected to qualify or be picked for Europe’s team for this month’s Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin.
”Well, you never know. There’s two events left,” Fleetwood said. ”He was hitting some great shots. I think he looked more and more comfortable. I always love being in his company.”
Fleetwood stood two strokes off the lead after a 5-under 66, while Molinari was three shots further back.
”It does help a little bit when you’re in such a comfortable pairing,” Fleetwood said. ”When you’ve been in such a high-pressure situation together, there’s always that bond that never sort of leaves you. It’s a silent thing and you just sort of play but you know you’re very comfortable with each other.”
Fleetwood said he hasn’t put any thought into who he might partner if Molinari doesn’t make it to Wisconsin
”There’s 11 other guys and I would be very happy to play with any of them and try to do my bit for the team,” he said. ”But we’ll wait and see, see what the starting 12 is. Obviously I’m very proud to make the team again and go out there and represent Europe and see if we can upset the odds again.”
Switching his focus from one good friend to another, Fleetwood also discussed his teaching sessions with Pep Guardiola, the coach of the Manchester City soccer club.
Guardiola said last week that he doesn’t plan to coach for too long because he needs time to reduce his handicap.
”I have Tommy Fleetwood as a good teacher so I have some drills,” Guardiola said. ”We play once a year. His schedule is busier than mine.”
Fleetwood countered that ”it’s a bit more than once a year. He gets a little bit bitter about it but he’s a much busier man than I am.”
Does Fleetwood learn anything from the man considered one of the best coaches in his sport?
”I learn nothing from him. He never gives me any advice at all. It’s all a one-way street,” Fleetwood told The Associated Press. ”Nothing at all. One-way street. You can tell him that.”
AP Sports Writer Steve Douglas contributed.
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